If you’ve been reading my blogs and you’ve been engaging in some new ways of running your life and deciding what you’re doing (or not) and when you may be noticing some benefits. As you’ve shifted your perspective on that virtual mountain of responsibilities and deadlines we all tend to experience, perhaps you’re enjoying the new sense of freedom that can come along with prioritizing differently. You may be feeling greater peace of mind as you let go of the myth that you can ever “get it all done.” Perhaps you’re feeling a bit more powerful as you shed old habits such as keeping a nagging, never-ending “to-do list that weighs you down and hinders your productivity.
In previous blogs on this topic, I’ve explained that this work begins with taking a brave embrace of all there is to do in your life — at work, at home… everywhere. Then you begin the work of very deliberately prioritizing those things based on what matters the most to you, rather than what you think you’re “supposed” to do. As you make these daily decisions, you are essentially reconditioning how you obligate yourself, and how you decide what you’re “doing now,” and what you’re not.
As people embark on this practice, they often share stories about difficulties, even setbacks. And that’s to be expected. As I explained early on, because this is a practice — like a martial art or playing a musical instrument — mastering it requires dedication and vigilance. There will be times we lose our balance or hit the wrong note. Here are three pitfalls to keep in mind — rationalizations people lean on as they fall back into old habits and begin to experience less power, freedom, and peace of mind.
1. Things are so much better.
It’s an understandable human response to begin to see this approach as a “fix” rather than something you never stop doing. As you begin to feel better about how you prioritize and accomplish things and become accustomed to the benefits, there can be a big sense of relief. So we exhale. And the exhale can feel pretty good. We may begin to tell ourselves that perhaps we don’t need to focus quite so hard on the decisions we make every day; perhaps we can let up a little bit and relax.
Relax? Yes, I wish you would. Let up? You’re welcome to, but then you will also experience the benefits differently — as in less. There is not an end game here; this is the game. Its focal point is about all the things that really matter to you — including your relationships with your people, your wellness, and your overall happiness.
2. It’s hard!
This approach calls for discipline and rigor, and there’s no way around that. It will always be ongoing work because of the nature of our lives: We have so many day-to-day opportunities to make decisions about what we do, what we don’t, and when. So you’re not crazy to think that this practice requires relentless self-awareness and candor. It does. There is no “cruise control” setting on this path. But there is such a thing as hitting your stride with the practice as you continue to experience a greater sense of autonomy based on what matters the most to you — and the heightened productivity that accompanies it.
Also, consider the alternative: Struggling to prevail over the mountain and feeling the stress, overwhelm, and exhaustion that can accompany survival mode. Of course, you can always go back to trying to get it all done; that option will never go away. But is it really an easier choice in the long run?
3. I worry I’ll never get it all right.
As a successful professional, you’re accustomed to getting things right and accomplishing a great deal. Perhaps it’s been a long time since you upset your own status quo and endeavored to operate differently. It’s uncomfortable. And as mere mortals, we’re never going to implement this approach perfectly. So there’s no need to worry about achieving the unachievable. Rather than seeing this as an objective you can’t attain, I suggest seeing it as something you do — again, a practice. There is no gold medal to earn, but you could end up in the best shape of your life when it comes to productivity.
You’ll never get it all right. It’s sort of like that fact that you’ll never get it all done: It’s reality. From my perspective, there is comfort in that reality. And there is great opportunity as you operate in a way that allows you to contribute more than ever before to the world, your colleagues, your loved ones, and yourself. More on that in my next blog. For now: Don’t worry, be productive!
This is the seventh in a blog series by productivity expert John Fisher